Friday, 18 September 2020

Recent(ish) recoveries – non-passerines

The group have received a number of recoveries of non-passerines throughout the year, fairly typical fare, but always interesting as we don’t tend to ring as many as we do songbirds. The plus side on this front, is that it is often easier to get recoveries of these birds as field observations are easier with bigger birds. Barn Owls make up the bulk of what we receive and these will be covered in a separate post.

A familiar sight in our inbox has been the Black-headed Gull, ringed as a chick at Attenborough in 2019, seen on numerous occasions by multiple observers at the Lough, in Cork. Many sightings were reported to us of this bird from January through to May. It may have then moved on to breed, but it will be interesting to see if it returns to winter at the same site again.

A Common Gull, colour ringed as a chick in Norway in 2016, spent the latter part of the winter at Trent Bridge, being seen by Tom in February, along with a couple of other observers.

Tom’s Trent Bridge gull outings usually come with a few Canada Geese thrown in, and there are still many residing there that have been ringed as part of the Nottingham University colour ringing project at their campus in Lenton. Recent sightings include a bird from 2010, and several from 2016-2018. Another was seen at Colwick park, ringed in 2018.

A couple of Swans ringed at Rushcliffe were seen at Attenborough in January. One ringed in 2015, the other in 2018.

The Attenborough Cormorant colony continues to provide decent recoveries. A bird ringed in 2018 has was seen in February on the River Stour in Essex. Another, ringed in 2016 was seen in August, roosting on the Clwyd in Rhyl. This bird is one of the most well travelled of the SNRG ringed cormorants, having been seen in Essex, Kent, The Wirral and Suffolk, and now Wales.


Monday, 14 September 2020

Colwick Garden Ringing, Sunday 13 September

I’ve been having semi-regular sessions in the garden since about July, after the usual summer hiatus when the garden goes a bit quiet and so I just let the birds get on with raising their young. Having new parental responsibilities of my own means that squeezing in the odd session here and there is very precious indeed.

Young tits, Greenfinches a few other bits and bobs made up the midsummer sessions, and since the end of August, Goldfinch have dominated once again, with the sunflower feeders going down at a rate of knots. Today I caught 26 new Goldfinches, mostly juveniles in various stages of moult. A few Chiffchaffs usually appear in September and I was lucky enough to have the nets up today when one piped up, which was quickly lured down, a ringing tick for the garden, contributing to a good total of 37 birds in a couple of hours.

Aside from numerous 3Js early in the season, the absence of young Blue and Great tits has been notable in the last few sessions. A quick look reveals that I have caught 35 BLUTI so far this year, which is far less than my yearly totals for both 2018 and 2019, further evidence that these species have had a poor year. A positive is that Greenfinch seem to be doing well, with plenty caught in the spring, and a few juveniles appearing in the garden in the last few weeks.


 Chiffchaff (T. Shields)


Saturday, 12 September 2020

Recent(ish) recoveries – passerines

We’ve not posted a recovery round up for a while, so we’re going to attempt a bit of a catching up. Below are a few highlights of the passerine recoveries we’ve received since the beginning of the year.

A Sand Martin ringed as a chick at Bagworth Heath in Leicestershire on 14 Aug 2018 was trapped at the Attenborough colony on 16 Jun 2020. A second chick ringed at the same locality on 20 May 2019 was trapped on 7 Jul 2020, and on the same day a bird was caught that had been ringed as a chick in Rutland on 23 May 2019. Bizarrely, we’ve also had a few Sand Martin recoveries through from the mid-1980s, thanks to some historic data having been entered into the system! The six records are all exchanges between Attenborough and other sites in Notts.

A Reed Warbler ringed at Holme Pierrepont on 21 Aug 2019 was caught by a ringer in France 19 days later 851km due south. Another bird, ringed 4 days later, was trapped in Wiltshire on 31 Aug 2020. An individual which had been ringed on its first southward migration at Titchfield Haven on 21 Sep 2019, was caught at Holme Pierrepont as a breeding female on 22 Jul 2020. On the same day, another bird was trapped that had been ringed at Rutland Water on 19 Jun 2019 as an adult. A young bird ringed on 19 Aug 2020 was caught in Gloucestershire 14 days later. At almost 3 years, the longest of the batch was a bird ringed at HPP on 13 Aug 2017 and caught at Pitsford Reservoir, Northants , on 30 Jul 2020.

A Sedge Warbler ringed at Hazelford Island on 17 Jul 2019 was caught by a ringer in France 26 days later 404km to the SSE.

A young Blue Tit ringed at Sutton Bonington on 10 Nov 2019 was trapped at Charnwood Lodge on 7 March 2020 having travelled 12km. Considering this bird may have undergone some dispersal already, it is a little beyond the median distance travelled by a first year bird by March (2km).


Monday, 7 September 2020

Late August ringing sessions

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont, Wednesday 19 August

The weather was good with very little breeze and the catching was steady but rain moved in just as we were about to take down. Gary and I finished with a catch of 81 including 17 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Robin 1/0, Dunnock 3/0, Willow Warbler 2/1, Chiffchaff 14/9, Blackcap 17/1, Garden Warbler 2/0, Whitethroat 7/0, Lesser Whitethroat 3/0, Reed Warbler 8/3, Blue Tit 3/1, Great Tit 3/0, Long-tailed Tit 0/1, Bullfinch 1/1. The oldest retrap was a Willow Warbler from 2015.

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont, Monday 24 August

The weather forecast was for overcast conditions with breeze picking up from the west – they lied, bright sun and breeze picking up from the south! Just me on this session so only a few nets in positions best protected from a forecasted westerly breeze. The sun and southerly breeze forced a slightly earlier finish but a reasonable catch of 33 including 3 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Robin 2/0, Wren 1/0, Cetti’s Warbler 1/0, Willow Warbler 3/0, Chiffchaff 5/1, Blackcap 8/0, Garden Warbler 3/0, Whitethroat 0/1, Lesser Whitethroat 3/0, Reed Warbler 3/1, Great Tit 1/0. The retraps were all recent birds but it was nice to catch a juvenile Cetti’s after so many visits with none evident.

Ramsdale, Sunday 31 August

Just Duncan and me today. The weather was dead calm all morning with a period of full sun mid-morning. We put up the most of the new line of nets and three of the old line and finished with a catch of 66 including 11 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 3/0, Dunnock 0/1, Blackcap 9/0, Whitethroat 2/0, Chiffchaff 19/5, Willow Warbler 3/0, Great Tit 1/1, Blue Tit 6/3, Goldcrest 1/1, Bullfinch 5/0, Goldfinch 6/0. The oldest retrap was a Goldcrest from last year.


Lesser Whitethroat & Ramsdale nets (K. Hemsley)


Saturday, 15 August 2020

Early August ringing sessions

Ramsdale, Sunday 02/08/20

Just Gary and me today. The weather was a bit breezy but we were still surprised not to catch many birds, although the site did seem strangely quiet with few birds around. We put up just the new line of nets and finished with a catch of 33 including 4 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Dunnock 1/0, Wren 1/0, Robin 1/0, Blackcap 5/0, Chiffchaff 5/2, Willow Warbler 3/1, Great Tit 1/0, Blue Tit 9/1, Goldfinch 3/0. The oldest retraps were from this year.

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont, Thursday 06/08/20

The weather was perfect; to start with very little breeze and the catching was brisk until about 0900. The sun started to break through mid-morning but by then the birds had disappeared. The team was Gary, Duncan and me and we finished with a catch of 71 including 8 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Tree Pipit 1/0, Blackbird 1/0, Robin 2/2, Wren 2/0, Dunnock 1/1, Willow Warbler 5/0, Chiffchaff 6/2, Blackcap 10/1, Garden Warbler 12/1, Whitethroat 7/0, Lesser Whitethroat 1/0, Reed Warbler 8/0, Goldcrest 1/0, Blue Tit 3/0, Bullfinch 3/1, Reed Bunting 1/0. The oldest retrap was a Bullfinch from last year. We noticed a drop in numbers of Chiffchaff and Reed Warblers but it was nice to catch a Tree Pipit next to an mp3 playing mixed warbler calls!

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont, Wednesday 12/08/20 

The weather was again perfect to start with but we knew with the forecast that it would be an early finish because of the heat. The temperature started to get a little too high and we closed the nets about 1100 but we still had a very good catch that kept us very busy. The team was Gary, Duncan and me and we finished with a catch of 138 including 10 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Robin 5/0, Wren 1/1, Dunnock 1/0, Willow Warbler 19/0, Chiffchaff 32/7, Blackcap 26/0, Garden Warbler 13/0, Whitethroat 2/0, Lesser Whitethroat 2/0, Reed Warbler 11/2, Sedge Warbler 1/0, Goldcrest 2/0, Blue Tit 5/0, Great Tit 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 1/0, Bullfinch 3/0, Reed Bunting 3/0. The oldest retrap was a Reed Warbler from 2017. 


 Tree Pipit, Holme Pierrepont, 6 August 2020 (K. Hemsley)

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Whitethroat moult

I caught an adult Common Whitethroat today which had arrested its primary moult. It had replaced primaries 9 and 10 on both wings.

According to Moult in birds by H B Ginn and D S Melville “late moulting birds may not finish before migrating (a few may not even start).....”. I didn't inspect the secondaries but they state “S start when P score 20 – 30”, however, they look pretty fresh in the photos.

According to Svennson “Late breeders/moulters of the nominate race sometimes suspend, leaving one or a few SS (and rarely PP) until after autumn migration”.

So this bird seems to follow the advice provided by Ginn and Melville.

Mick P

Monday, 3 August 2020

Ringing updates from end of June & July

An update on some Covid-19 restricted ringing sessions:

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont - Saturday 20/06/20
The weather was bright with a light breeze. The team consisted of Gary, Duncan and myself. The catch rate was steady throughout the morning and we finished with a total of 49 birds including 9 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 2/0, Song Thrush 2/0, Robin 6/2, Wren 1/1, Dunnock 5/0, Willow Warbler 8/1, Chiffchaff 10/0, Blackcap 2/2, Reed Warbler 1/1, Cetti’s Warbler 0/1, Blue Tit 1/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Reed Bunting 1/0. The oldest retraps were a Cetti’s Warbler and Blackcap both from 2016.

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont - Wednesday 01/07/20 The weather was fair with an increasing breeze. The team consisted of Gary, Tom and myself. The catch rate dropped off as the breeze picked up and we finished with a total of 53 birds including 12 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 1/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Robin 1/2, Wren 1/0, Dunnock 2/0, Willow Warbler 7/2, Chiffchaff 6/2, Blackcap 10/1, Garden Warbler 1/3, Whitethroat 1/0, Reed Warbler 6/1, Cetti’s Warbler 2/1, Blue Tit 1/0, Great Tit 1/0. The oldest retraps were from last year.

Ramsdale - Sunday 12/07/20The weather was sunny with an increasing breeze. The team consisted of Gary, Duncan and myself. The catch rate dropped off as the breeze picked up and we finished with a total of 32 birds including 2 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 2/0, Robin 4/0, Wren 3/0, Dunnock 3/0, Chiffchaff 9/2, Blackcap 3/0, Whitethroat 2/0, Goldcrest 1/0, Treecreeper 1/0, Great Tit 1/0, Linnet 1/0. The retraps were both from the previous visit.

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont - Wednesday 15/07/20
The weather forecasts had been very inaccurate in the last week or so and suddenly changed the day before this trip to suggest we would be rained off. We went ahead anyway and we were not rained off and had a good session in mostly overcast but quite calm conditions. We had a team out consisting of Gary, Duncan and myself. We ended with a decent catch of 66 including 9 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 1/0, Wren 5/0, Dunnock 0/1, Willow Warbler 1/1, Chiffchaff 9/1, Blackcap 6/0, Whitethroat 11/0, Lesser Whitethroat 1/0, Reed Warbler 13/6, Sedge Warbler 1/0, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 3/0, Treecreeper 1/0, Greenfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0, Reed Bunting 1/0. The oldest retrap was a Reed Warbler from 2017. We were a little surprised to hear a Cuckoo calling this morning.

Ramsdale - Sunday 19/07/20
The team consisted of Gary, Alex, Mick P and myself. On the last visit I identified a new site for a net line west of the usual line, this area was much more open and the vegetation lower. With a team of four from the start (a big team in the current circumstances) we set the usual nets (126m in length) plus a new line (102m in length). It had rained over night so everywhere was wet but as we set nets the skies cleared and there was only a slight breeze. We finished with a excellent total of 113 birds including 4 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 3/0, Robin 9/0, Dunnock 3/0, Chiffchaff 31/2, Willow Warbler 6/0, Blackcap 19/1, Garden Warbler 2/0, Whitethroat 7/0, Treecreeper 0/1, Blue Tit 1/0, Great Tit 5/0, Goldfinch 21/0, Linnet 2/0. The oldest retraps were from last year. The new line was 20% shorter than the old line of nets but caught over 60% of the birds!

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont - Wednesday 22/07/20 The weather was perfect, overcast and very little breeze so we were hopeful of a very good catch. We had a team out consisting of Gary, Duncan and myself but despite the good conditions the catch was a little disappointing for the time of year. We ended with a catch of 63 including 7 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 2/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Robin 1/0, Wren 3/1, Dunnock 1/0, Willow Warbler 1/2, Chiffchaff 11/0, Blackcap 7/0, Garden Warbler 1/0, Whitethroat 1/1, Reed Warbler 16/3, Goldcrest 1/0, Blue Tit 6/0, Great Tit 2/0, Reed Bunting 2/0. The oldest retrap was a Willow Warbler from 2018 and we did control 2 Reed Warblers.

Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont - Thursday 30/07/20
The weather was again perfect, at least to start with very little breeze but the sun started to break through mid-morning which slowed things down. We had a team out consisting of Gary, Duncan and myself and this time had an excellent catch of 103 including 9 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Kingfisher 1/0, Robin 0/1, Wren 2/1, Dunnock 1/0, Willow Warbler 6/0, Chiffchaff 22/0, Blackcap 10/0, Garden Warbler 10/0, Whitethroat 5/3, Lesser Whitethroat 2/0, Reed Warbler 17/1, Blue Tit 3/2, Great Tit 2/0, Bullfinch 8/0, Chaffinch 1/0, Goldfinch 1/0, Reed Bunting 3/1. The oldest retrap was a Reed Bunting from 2019.

After our third visit to Holme Pierrepont in July, I looked at the number of individuals caught and compared the numbers to last years figures for the first three July visits– same number of visits, same number of nets, same net sites and same number of hours.

The losers at this stage this year seem to be:
Blue Tit – overall down 61%, juveniles down 68%
Bullfinch – overall down 100%, juveniles down 100%
Garden Warbler – overall down 62%, juveniles down 75%
Great Tit – overall down 50%, juveniles down 50%
Reed Bunting – overall down 70%, juveniles down 80%
Sedge Warbler – overall down 88%, juveniles down 75%
Willow Warbler – overall down 44%, juveniles down 80%

Unfortunately there do not seem to be any definite winners, although Dunnocks may be doing slightly better that last year but we do not catch many so the sample size is low.

Species with numbers roughly the same as last year are: Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, Robin, Whitethroat and Wren.

Our fourth visit in July this year did produce the first catch of Bullfinch and a nice number of Garden Warbler so we wait to see what the final figures for the season will look like.


 Juvenile Goldcrest at Ramsdale, juvenile Reed Warbler with a fault bar at HPP, juvenile Kingfisher at HPP (K. Hemsley)

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Owls & moths

Well the moth season hasn't been much better than the Barn Owl season, but I had an interesting collision of hobbies yesterday. A month ago when checking Barn Owl boxes, I'd collected some pellets to pull apart with the children. These remained in a tupperware container on the side, forgotten about but yesterday the kids said 'dad - something's hatched out of the pellets!' Sure enough, buzzing around in the box were about a dozen micro moths called Monopis laevigella (sometimes called 'Skin Moths'). The larvae of this species feed on detritus of animal origin, including carcases, faeces and pellets. Their spent pupal cases can be seen sticking out of the pellets.


Thursday, 18 June 2020

Ramsdale Park Gof Club, Sunday 14 June

The first visit of this strange year was made to Ramsdale on Sunday by Duncan, Gary, Mick P and me. The rides needed quite a few overhanging spurs of blackberry and hawthorn cutting back but no major clearance as we were using the site into November last year. It was a very misty start to the day but with only a slight breeze. The sun broke through just before we took down and it became very warm.

The catch rate was steady throughout the morning and we ended with a total of 46 including 4 retraps made up of (new/retrap): Blackbird 0/1, Dunnock 1/1, Wren 0/1, Robin 3/0, Blackcap 4/0, Garden Warbler 1/0, Lesser Whitethroat 4/0, Chiffchaff 9/1, Blue Tit 13/0, Great Tit 2/0, Linnet 5/0.

The oldest retrap was a Chiffchaff from 2018. Most of the resident species caught were juveniles and the migrants mainly adults with a few juveniles. Nice to get a few Linnets again at the only site we regularly catch them.


 male Linnet (K. Hemsley)

Friday, 12 June 2020

Holme Pierrepont, Tuesday 9 June

The second visit of the year was made to the Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont on Tuesday by Duncan, Gary and me. Perfect weather conditions, overcast and still. We put up all the usual nets and caught steadily all morning. The Willow Warbler chicks in the nest we found near the base on the last visit had gone, hopefully fledged successfully.

We ended with 76 birds caught including 9 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Song Thrush 1/0, Robin 7/0, Dunnock 1/2, Wren 4/0, Blackcap 7/0, Garden Warbler 2/0, Whitethroat 0/1, Cetti’s Warbler 1/0, Reed Warbler 2/1, Chiffchaff 18/0, Willow Warbler 5/3, Blue Tit 9/0, Great Tit 7/1, Goldfinch 2/1, Greenfinch 1/0.

The Goldfinch retrap was originally ringed last year in Tom’s garden on the other side of the river. The oldest retrap was a Willow Warbler from 2016. The Bittern was seen again overhead and was not popular with the nesting gulls! The photograph shows the state the net rides after they had spent such a long time under water during the winter floods. Now a layer of dry mud covers the ground and seems to have killed some of the bramble and supressed growth of other vegetation, leaving the rides nice and open for us.


Monday, 1 June 2020

Box-checking in the Vale, 30/31 May

Finished my first round of Barn Owl and Kestrel box checks over the weekend and the second half wasn't quite as productive as the first with several boxes down. Nevertheless, it looks like I have seven Barn Owl broods to return to but just two of Kestrel.

A bonus came when a friend with a private box sent me a photo of a large Tawny Owl chick looking out of the entrance hole. Knowing that this was not only late in the season, but also that these chicks were likely to start branching at any time, I popped round immediately and ringed a healthy brood of three good-sized Tawnys - almost certainly the only ones I'll ring this year having missed the main season due to lockdown. Later that night, the owner wandered out to watch the sunset and took the marvellous photo below showing one chick starting to explore!

The pie chart shows the breakdown of my box occupancy this year.


 Barn Owl
 Kestrel clutch
 Stock Doves
 'branching' Tawny Owl chick

Update from the east of the county

I completed the third CES session in our Sibthorpe garden on Monday 25 May. Totals below. The only juvenile birds were House Sparrow and Starling. Potter traps are a much more effective way of trapping the latter though and the same is also true of our Blackbirds. Since 1st April, I’ve had 27 individual adults in the garden (20 of which were male). I think with the dry ground, they are having to commute to our deli with its fat balls etc as well as the softer ground by the septic tank.

Birds handled (new/re-encounter 17/7): Blackbird 4/2; Blue Tit -/1, Goldfinch 4/1; Great Tit –/1; Greenfinch 2/1; House Sparrow 3/1; Starling 4/-.

Box-wise, I’ve now checked c50 with Elaine. We try to do no more than 12 per day as all the ladder work in down to me, but it still seems to fill the day. This has included nearly all of the Trust’s boxes.

Priority has been the Tawny Owl boxes and other boxes in their vicinity. Re Tawnies, I’ve now ringed 5 single chicks and found a female on eggs on 20 May to go back to. Only missed one breeding attempt for sure at Fox Covert NR where it looks like they fledged successfully. A banker box had a roosting adult escape 19 May and I wonder if it was a pre-laying bird?

The Little Owls at Brackenhurst had failed due to bees/wasps – one stung me on the chin, but we have chicks to ring at Flintham.

Barn owls – only found one breeding so far, and missing from Flintham Estate - and other local sites - but their kestrels are breeding for 17th year running. I have not found any small mammals cached in any of the owl boxes, which explains low occupancy and does not bode well for the Barn Owl and Kestrel breeding season.

In north Notts, Adrian Blackburn has checked c15 of his best BO boxes and found occupancy 50% down with some holding underweight non-breeders.

Jim Lennon

Friday, 29 May 2020

Holme Pierrepont, Thursday 28 May

We are back to mist-netting in a very limited way at some sites. The current restrictions remain frustrating for many ringers and especially trainees, but at least things are moving in the right direction and hopefully it won't be too long before we can resume more normal operations.

Gary and I held the first session at the Skylarks end of Holme Pierrepont once we'd been given the go-ahead from the Notts Wildlife Trust. It's too far into the breeding season to cut back vegetation along net rides, but luckily very little clearing was required as the high floodwaters over the winter had killed off quite a few patches of brambles and such like. So it was a pleasant surprise to be able to put several nets up quickly.

As expected, we finished a little early due to the sun and heat, but not before processing over 50 birds including 5 Willow Warbler pulli. Interesting that people have been reporting a bad year for Blue and Great Tits as we did not catch any. The only tits we did catch were a party of about 8 Long-tailed Tits which were all adults, so possibly failed breeders. Juvenile Robins dominated the catch but we had a few warblers including returning retrap Lesser Whitethroats and Reed Warblers. A new Kingfisher was a nice surprise and we also caught a juvenile Blackcap that had been fledged long enough to lose a tail feather and half grow a replacement already!

Other interesting birds around were a low flying Bittern and a Hobby overhead.


Owl box checking, Thursday 28 May

Did my first few owl box checks in the Vale of Belvoir today. Out of 14 boxes checked, 5 contained breeding Barn Owls, 1 had a roosting Barn Owl, 4 held Stock Doves, one had two Little Owl chicks and 3 were empty. So all in all a fairly productive day. Fingers crossed it continues like that and although the land is desperate for rain, let's hope we aren't completely washed out in June like last year.


Monday, 18 May 2020

Garden CES at Sibthorpe

With the Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ affecting bird ringers the same as everyone else, we were only allowed to ring in our gardens until a few days ago. With this in mind, the BTO thought it might put idle hands to work and try Constant Effort Site ringing in ringers' gardens, there’s more about the CES methodology here - the main difference is that under Garden CES food can be put out for the birds.

I have completed two six hour timed ringing sessions so far:

8 May 2020, CES 1
Birds handled (new/re-encounter 14/13): Blackbird 5/3; Chaffinch 1/-; Dunnock –/4; Greenfinch 4/1; House Sparrow 1/3; Reed Bunting 1/-; Robin –/2; Starling 1/-; Whitethroat 1/-.

15 May 2020, CES 2
Birds handled (new/re-encounter 12/10): Blackbird 1/4; Blue Tit 1/1, Chaffinch 3/-; Dunnock 1/1; Goldfinch 2/1; Greenfinch 2/-; House Sparrow -/2; Robin 1/-; Starling 1/1.

That’s 49 adult birds so far, which suggests I should make the minimum of 200 bird handlings over the 12 CES sessions. We suspected breeding Blackbirds were commuting to our feeders from around the village and with 13 different adults so far this seems to be the case. The Reed Bunting was unexpected, though they do breed in the wet ditches nearby, and the Whitethroat had a break from singing 12 hours a day across the road from us.

Images of the Whitethroat and an interesting Greenfinch for folk to muse over . . . . .